What we're watching – Freeway Series

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– The first of two series between the Braves and Red Sox kicks off with
a battle of Japanese starters, as Kenshin Kawakami and Daisuke
Matsuzaka will take the mound at Fenway tonight. Kawakami is 3-5 with a
4.54 ERA, but he hasn’t allowed more than three earned runs in any of
this last eight starts and he’s 1-0 with a 1.38 ERA in his two
interleague starts to date. Dice-K, who had his last start interrupted
by a rain delay, is 1-4 with a 7.55 ERA. He could use a strong outing
to guarantee that he’s kept in the rotation following John Smoltz’s
return next week.

– A White Sox-Reds game doesn’t qualify as a banner matchup, but with Hawk Harrelson set to miss the game, at least one of the two teams could have a watchable broadcast for once.

That Jose Contreras was able to hold the Tigers and Brewers to three
hits over 16 scoreless innings in his last two starts suggests he’ll
have no problem tonight with a Reds team that has scored 35 runs in 13
games.

As expected,
Ryan Hanigan is back batting eighth tonight after raising his OBP to
.406 by reaching three times as a No. 5 hitter Thursday. Just what was
he thinking?

– After losing 3-2 on Wednesday and 3-0 on Thursday, the Yankees
will face a pitcher they’ve never seen before in a third straight game
as the Marlins thrown Sean West tonight. West, a 6-foot-8 left-hander,
will be making his sixth big-league start after going 2-1 with a 3.00
ERA in the first five. He is wild, but the league is hitting just .165
against him. Andy Pettitte will start for the Bombers.

Game of the Night

L.A. Dodgers and L.A. Angels – The Angels are taking a seven-game
winning streak into their series against the Dodgers, and they’ll have
the added boost of getting Torii Hunter and Vladimir Guerrero back in
the lineup tonight. Still, it’s not likely to be easy to beat Chad
Billingsley, who is 3-0 this month and 9-3 with a 2.72 ERA for the
season. He is 1-2 lifetime against the Angels, but that comes with a
2.45 ERA in 22 innings. Seven-game winner Joe Saunders will get the
ball for the Angels.

Must-Click Link: The Turbulent Final Year of Yordano Ventura’s Life

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 23:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals reacts in the sixth inning while taking on the Toronto Blue Jays in game six of the 2015 MLB American League Championship Series at Kauffman Stadium on October 23, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
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The Kansas City Star has covered the death of Yordano Ventura and its aftermath in a thorough, thoughtful, respectful and admirable fashion and it has all been compelling to read, even if it’s often been difficult to read. Their latest story may be the most difficult, though it is nonetheless essential.

It covers the final year of Ventura’s life which, sadly, was tumultuous. He had become estranged from his family. He was married to a woman who, at the time of the ceremony, was still married to her first husband and whose family, allegedly, later made threats against Ventura that we’re only now learning about. This includes allegations of armed men accosting Ventura at his home near the Royals spring training facility a year ago. An incident which led to him missing time due to “flulike symptoms,” but which, in reality, caused him considerable mental distress. He was again threatened, it is claimed, in Kansas City during the season. There is also an allegation that Ventura attempted suicide via an overdose of Benadryl, though that is disputed.

Beyond that, there is an arc to the end of Ventura’s life which sounds unfortunately familiar. It’s a story of a young man whose life changed dramatically in a very, very short period of time and who struggled at times to process the changes. Were it not for a fateful drive on a dark and winding road one night in late January, they all could’ve been things that, as his career matured, he could look back on as learning experiences. Now that he’s gone, however, they form the final, tragic chapter.

Report: Royals and Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 12:  Eric Hosmer #35 of the Kansas City Royals and the American League rounds the bases after hitting a home run against the National League in the 2nd inning of the 87th Annual MLB All-Star Game at PETCO Park on July 12, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
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Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.

Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.

Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.